October 23, 2015

Avcı should be given back his freedom

Erhan Başyurt

Our columnist Gültekin Avcı has been held in Silivri Prison for over a month. He is charged with “establishing and managing an armed terrorist organization”, “plotting to topple the government” and “military espionage through leaking confidential documents” based solely on views expressed in 7 previous columns.

Two of these columns that have been cited as reason for arrest were about “how muta (temporary marriage) is used by Iranian intelligence for espionage.”

In his columns on muta marriage, Avcı made references to previous reports about Iranian female operatives caught in Turkey that had appeared in Hürriyet and Habertürk dailies and on TRT Türk channel.

But the court issued an arrest warrant based on the “Tawhid-Salam/Quds Force” investigation, which was launched after his columns had been published.

The other columns that formed the ground for charges were about the “Tawhid-Salam Terrorist Organization.”

The “Tawhid-Salam” terror network was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals in three separate rulings as a terrorist organization that was involved in the murders of journalists and academics Uğur Mumcu, Ahmet Taner Kışlalı, and Bahriye Üçok.

Avcı analyzed the “Tawhid-Salam” investigation file from the viewpoint of a jurist and a former criminal prosecutor, after the investigation and the content of the file had been extensively covered by the media.

But he is charged with revealing “confidential” documents and espionage now.
There is neither “confidential” information nor “document.”

Besides, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rules that journalists can even publish “confidential documents” for the sake of public interest.


The detailed ruling does not contain a single line about either the “armed terrorist organization” or “its activities”, for which he is charged.

There is not a bullet, let alone a gun, presented as evidence. There is not a terrorist act, either.

Avcı was not asked a single question about it.

Avcı says he does not know any of the persons mentioned in the bill of indictment and has never talked face to face or on the phone with them in the past.

And the prosecutor’s office did not bring a counterproof.

There was not a single question as to how his columns constitute “coup plot” or “espionage.”

A Historical Traffic Search (HTS) record showing that Avcı talked to a police chief on the phone, who took part in the Dec. 25 graft probe, is cited as “evidence” for the charges.

That police chief, who carried out a legal investigation at the order of the prosecutor’s office, is not under arrest. Avcı explains the reason for the telephone call that took place long after the Dec. 25 probe:

“I called the police chief, who was removed from duty at the time, and invited him to a TV program to talk about what happened during the process. I did not know him or contact him before that time.”

Historical Traffic Search (HTS) records are retrieved from mobile operators every 3 months for collecting “preventive intelligence.”

There are concrete court rulings stating that these records cannot be presented as “evidence.” HTS records only show who called whom. They do not tell about the contents of telephone conversations.

In other words, a retroactive “crime” is produced out of the nonexistent content of a telephone conversation.


The ECtHR has ruled in leading cases that journalists cannot be arrested for columns and for reporting. Rulings of the ECtHR are above our domestic law and should be obeyed.

More interestingly, Avcı is also a lawyer registered with İzmir Bar Association and legal conditions for his arrest were not present.

There is that example of statement released by the Turkish Bars Association (TBB) after the warrant of arrest for Tahir Elçi, President of Diyarbakır Bar Association.

But Avcı was detained on his road to Friday prayer with his 4-year-old son. Avcı knew the investigations about him and did not flee.

He personally went to the prosecutor months ago, who demanded his arrest, and said he wanted to give testimony. The prosecutor himself rejected Avcı’s request.

Again, the said 7 columns, which form the basis for charges, are still there. Spoliation of evidence by Avcı is out of question.

Hence there is not any legal ground to demand he be jailed pending trial.

The police did not take his testimony. Nor did the prosecutor at the courthouse, thus trampling the law.


Despite these facts, the judge questioned Avcı at court, who was unaware of the charges, about a “wrong name” and issued the arrest warrant citing a different name.

More interestingly, the judge who issued the arrest warrant, turned out to have personally sued Avcı before.

There is “hostility” here and our laws state, “A judge cannot hear a case if he has an issue with the defendant.”

However, journalist Avcı was arrested without any other evidence than his 7 columns and faces “life sentence plus 20 years in prison.” He has been deprived of freedom in Silivri Prison for 34 days.

It is possible to arrest every journalist and author in Turkey using the method and grounds cited for Avcı’s arrest.

That decision confirmed that Turkey is not only “world’s biggest prison” but also a “semi-open prison” for all journalists and authors.

Blatant oppression arises while justice is trampled on.

Turkey must immediately get rid of this lawlessness and violations of freedoms.

Freedom of our columnist Avcı and the “right to be informed” of our readers, which is guaranteed by European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and our Constitution, should be restored right away.

Published on BGNNews, 23 October 2015, Friday